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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Arab countries won't deliver 'normalization' gestures

The Jerusalem Post reports on Wednesday that the Netanyahu government expects that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell will have 'normalization gestures' in hand from the Arab countries by the time he returns to Israel in August.
The assessments in Jerusalem are that negotiations with the Palestinians would begin only after the US and Israel agreed on some kind of settlement construction freeze, and this freeze would be declared when the US had commitments for some normalization gestures from the Arab world.

Israel has made clear that any type of settlement freeze would have to be met by reciprocal gestures from the Arab world, leading to speculation that the delay in reaching a compromise on the settlements up until now has stemmed in part from difficulties Mitchell has been having in getting any Arab states to commit to any gesture toward Israel at this time.
But Asharq Al-Awsat is telling a far different story (link in Arabic, what follows is based on a Google translation).
Quoted sources briefed on the contents of the Mitchell talks to the Arab side said the they informed the U.S. envoy of their reservations with an emphasis on the core of the Arab initiative, which says comprehensive peace in return for full relations with Israel, no normalization. However, Mitchell defended the demand by focusing on two fundamental principles: the first says that the call for the «purpose of assisting the U.S. president» in the confrontation with the Israeli government to fight right-wing and, therefore, be on the Arab countries if it wants to capitalize on the momentum shown by the diplomat, the U.S. administration «not stand idle »and« to take action »in order to see that Washington« not only put pressure on Israel »which is the pretext hiding behind supporters of Israel in the United States in the fight against President Obama.

The second argument that Mitchell made regarding the Arab initiative, which Washington considers a framework and reference for peace is that it «remained after seven years of its launch it as an empty structure, and therefore it is time to activate it and give it practical substance». [In other words, Mitchell told the Arabs that if they make gestures, it will undercut the claims of Israel and its supporters that the United States is only pressing Israel, and the Arab peace plan has gone nowhere for seven years, so if they really want it to be substantive, they have to change tactics. CiJ]

A senior Arab official who was in Paris...the response to Washington is «non-rejection», but linked to an Israeli response to a range of conditions that are meant to ensure that the Arabs should not make normalization steps «gratis» or as «a reward for Israel's intransigence» or «lure Arab additional concessions». [So does this mean that any Arab 'gestures' will only be in effect so long as the 'settlement freeze' is in effect? Or are the Arabs expecting that the 'settlement freeze' will be permanent? CiJ]

But what «conditions» that claimed by the Arabs?

Arabs want to be assured that this is the beginning of «serious» and effectiveness of U.S. efforts and its ability to influence the approach of the current Israeli government, especially the issue of settlements. The Arabs also want to know what the U.S. plan is, and imagine the final solution and the mechanism that govern it, and time limits that are committed by Washington for achieving the objectives of the plan «because we are no longer willing to negotiate dozens of years». [In other words, they want the final terms up front - nothing to negotiate - and then they want Israel delivered on a silver platter. The thing that matters most to the Arab states is a non-starter for Israel: The 'right of return.' They want to be able to send all their 'Palestinians' to what is left of the Jewish state. CiJ]

... the Arab side wants thei steps to come after freezing, and not in anticipation, and after ascertaining the credibility that Israel will reach a settlement based on the principle of two states. In addition, the Arabs will ask that Israel cary out «additional steps», including reutrning the situation in the West Bank to what it was before the second intifada. [Fat chance that last point will happen - that means taking down the 'security fence.' CiJ]


There are two additional principles: first, it is «voluntary», or that any one of the Arab countries want to respond to Washington and to take steps toward Israel is «free» to do so but not required to. Associated with this principle, the principle of «individual», meaning that it will not come from the Arab League, for example, in calls for a collective decision to normalize relations with Israel, but will bear the responsibilities of each country itself, the Arabs will not go to the normalization with Israel before the achievement of an overall peace in the region. In the issue of the time, the Arab side is not required by Washington to settle the specific date, but wants a «horizon» of reasonable time. A ministerial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that timing that benefits the American midterm elections could be reasonable and acceptable.
So the carrot is that the Arabs will help the Democrats retain control of Congress. And the stick is that they still want a deal with Israel signed, sealed and delivered before they will do anything.

There aren't going to be any 'normalization gestures' in August and probably not anytime soon after that either.


At 5:41 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

we have to understand, that Pali in special and Arabs in general cannot give up the "right of return" without directly losing popular support, so Obama "piece" is a non starter.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I don't see a freeze happening. As I mentioned, the Arab concessions are of a temporary and limited character in nature. In contrast, Israel has to agree to limit the rights of its citizens before there can even be negotiations. That is a unilateral concession given in exchange for exactly nothing. A six month freeze will harm Israel and when it is over, the Arabs will not only not make peace with Israel, they will likely issue new demands to the Jewish State. Its going to go nowhere.

At 2:21 AM, Blogger mrzee said...

It would take decades for "normal" relations to exist with any Arab country after so many of their subjects have been taught for so long to hate Israel.

It reminds me of the meetings that led to the Roadmap which took place in Jordan (Aqaba, I think). There were American, Egyptian, Palestinian and Jordanian flags, but no Israeli flag because it was considered "too provocative", ten years after the peace treaty with Jordan.


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